Where Will You Be for Thanksgiving?
I had planned to head south for Thanksgiving like I do most years. Then, confinement happened again. Now it seems like all I do is buy train tickets and cancel them, buy tickets and cancel them, buy tickets and cancel them. Fortunately, my SNCF senior card allows fast, easy and free booking with free cancellations—because in today’s world of Covid-19, there’s no such thing as making plans to which one can stick.
I had purchased tickets to go to Provence to be with my good friend, Barb Westfield, at her beautiful village house in the Luberon. It’s something I have come to love to do. We’ve had many wonderful holiday weekends there, often with friends who come from the States to partake of juicy French turkey (yes, French turkey beats American turkey, hands down). But, Barb gave me a reality check.
“I checked with the ‘Mairie’ in Ansouis (city hall) and they told me that during confinement, I’m not allowed to even pick you up at the station,” she warned me. “If I get caught, I could get fined 135€. And that’s just the beginning of the possibilities. We have to have a valid reason for getting together, as you know. And you realize we won’t really be able to do much, anyway.” she reminded me.
“True. But we can eat turkey, work like we always do, watch dumb stuff on TV, and hang out together” I replied. “Why be alone when at least we can be together?” I offered to pay the fine should that happen, but Barb reminded me that a fine would appear on her police record and a second violation could mean a fine of 2,000€. No one wants either of those things, that’s for sure.
Minutes later I received a notice that the “Syndic” (trustee/manager) of our building in Nice was calling a special meeting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He’s been our volunteer Syndic (a thankless job) for 28 years. The meeting is important because he has sold his apartment and we’ll be voting on his proposed replacement, the buyer of his apartment.
Barb was right, even though I didn’t really want to admit it, so with my tail between my legs, I got back on the SNCF website to book more tickets. This time to head to Nice instead for this meeting, to return after the weekend. The Syndic was able to give me an “attestation” (same meaning in English) providing a legitimate reason for making the trip to Nice during confinement. (Whoo-hoo!) The meeting is also important for me because the new buyers of his apartment are the daughter and son-in-law of the neighbors who live below me, who have been a huge thorn in my paw since the very beginning of my ownership there. Therefore the person who is likely to become our new volunteer Syndic is the son-in-law and that means their family will have a lot of power in our building…26 “tantièmes”* (or 26 percent of the building) total compared to my 4.5 percent.
*The tantièmes are defined in relation to all the common parts of the co-ownership. Since the building has common areas that must be shared by all the co-owners, the co-ownership must calculate the fraction that this common area share represents that is given to each owner. It is this share that is measured in tenths or thousandths.
Believe it or not, these neighbors are suing me to install a “real toilet,” but they won’t give me permission to plumb it. I swear this is true. The daughter is the lawyer who is filing and managing the suit against me! It’s a long story that I’ve written about on other occasions, but in essence, the toilet now in the apartment is a “sanibroyeur” or grinder toilet. The operation of the system is based on the principle of traditional evacuation, but also incorporates an electric motor crushing the waste materials. (Lovely, right?) The waste is then propelled into the sewage system, but utilizes much smaller pipes than the average network (mine are 40mm instead of 100mm). The installation requires an electrical outlet to connect the motor and pump, a water supply and a special connection to the drainage network. All of this is was cleverly hidden behind a wall, in a closet, under the hot water tank and enclosed behind a wooden facade…hence the reason none of this was obvious until renovation began. And to top it off, there is no indication from the sounds or look of the toilet that it’s anything but the Real McCoy. I didn’t install it. I just inherited it, unknowingly. (That’s yet another story, because I sued the seller of the apartment for a “vice caché” [hidden defect] as by law, this must be disclosed and it wasn’t. I won that case and won the appeal, over the course of eight years!)
The neighbors don’t like the toilet because they claim they hear it, although they won’t allow me into their apartment to actually hear the noise for myself (so I wonder if this is true). When I made a formal request to the co-owners to create a real toilet by plumbing it via the stairwell (the only way experts have told me it was possible), they denied the request. So, you see, the people who are frivolously suing me are now gaining even more power in the building by owning more than 26 percent of the shares. (Fun and games.) Nonetheless, I intend to be there and cast my vote. (Which way do you think I should vote?)
This means Thanksgiving will be spent in Nice and I have plans with friends to pig out on French turkey at their home up in the hills far away from anyone with just a small group of four. (I booked a Covid-19 test immediately upon arrival to ensure I test negatively before going.) Now, I know this is “against the rules,” and you may think me irreverent. Perhaps I am, but one must weigh the advantages, disadvantages and of course, the risks to oneself, but more importantly to others. That I wouldn’t do, hence the reason for the testing in advance. Besides, what would my emotional life be like without friends on Thanksgiving?
I’ll bet all of you are wrestling with the same thing at this very moment. Thanksgiving is that American holiday that is not religiously based and has a good moral meaning, if not great eats. It’s something most of us look forward to every year. And with our entire year interrupted by a pandemic that has rendered us confined in our homes without our family and friends, it’s even more vital. Still, there is the pandemic to consider…so we face this dilemma.
The tickets to Nice were the second set purchased within 24 hours. Then, minutes later, I got a phone call from one of the producers of House Hunters International.
“Adrian, where will you be in December? We’re going to be taping a show in Menton December 7 to 10 and would like you to be in it,” she said.
“Of course I can be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Back on the SNCF website I went to book more tickets, with the idea of staying in Nice the entire three weeks, rather than risking traveling back and forth too much. (Besides, if under confinement, wouldn’t strolls along the Mediterranean in the sunshine sound more appealing than the gray streets of Paris?) If you have ever tried to book a ticket online with SNCF, then you know that it can be very challenging indeed. Different browsers give you different results—not only will different train schedules pop up, but some let you choose your seats and others don’t. It’s maddening. At least I can cancel the tickets I won’t be using online, relatively easily. (I now have the hang of it.)
I always book the same seat. I like first class (only a few euros more than second class and well worth it), the upper level of the car (more head room), the car directly next to the dining car (#3 or 13) and I like a single seat facing another person because the legroom is better, the table is bigger and flat and the window is full size for great views. The luggage rack is just behind the seat, making it easy to get in and out of my bag and watch it should someone wish to abscond with it! As long as the electrical plugs are working (they don’t always), then I’m good to go for the six-hour trip to relax, write or answer emails, or even watch something stupid on Netflix.
So, where will you be next week for Thanksgiving? Be prudent. Be careful. And be happy.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. While many of you may be streaming Netflix for the holiday, you can also binge on three of our recent House Hunters International episodes! For a limited time the full videos are available. Visit our HHI page for details and links to the episodes on HGTV for “A Parisian Place for Mother and Daughter,” “From Vancouver to the Vineyards of Epernay, France” and “The Good Life in Paris.”